Robotics: Science and Systems XVI

Vision-Based Goal-Conditioned Policies for Underwater Navigation in the Presence of Obstacles

Travis Manderson, Juan Camilo Gamboa Higuera, Stefan Wapnick, Jean-François Tremblay, Florian Shkurti, David Meger, Gregory Dudek


We present Nav2Goal, a data-efficient and end-to-end learning method for goal-conditioned visual navigation. Our technique is used to train a navigation policy that enables a robot to navigate close to sparse geographic waypoints provided by a user without any prior map, all while avoiding obstacles and choosing paths that cover user-informed regions of interest. Our approach is based on recent advances in conditional imitation learning. General-purpose safe and informative actions are demonstrated by a human expert. The learned policy is subsequently extended to be goal-conditioned by training with hindsight relabelling, guided by the robot's relative localization system, which requires no additional manual annotation. We deployed our method on an underwater vehicle in the open ocean to collect scientifically relevant data of coral reefs, which allowed our robot to operate safely and autonomously, even at very close proximity to the coral. Our field deployments have demonstrated over a kilometer of autonomous visual navigation, where the robot reaches on the order of 40 waypoints, while collecting scientifically relevant data. This is done while travelling within 0.5 m altitude from sensitive corals and exhibiting significant learned agility to overcome turbulent ocean conditions and to actively avoid collisions.



    AUTHOR    = {Travis Manderson AND Juan Camilo Gamboa Higuera AND Stefan Wapnick AND Jean-François Tremblay AND Florian Shkurti AND David Meger AND Gregory Dudek}, 
    TITLE     = {{Vision-Based Goal-Conditioned Policies for Underwater Navigation in the Presence of Obstacles}}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2020}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Corvalis, Oregon, USA}, 
    MONTH     = {July}, 
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2020.XVI.048}